Article 36 How the Gods have made up Reality
The above mask picture I found by searching for ‘sacred ritual implements.’ Presumably this mask was worn by a high priest or some such in order to summon the presence of a deity.
The simple premise behind this Article is that on the level of human experience as opposed to abstract theory or philosophy that which we call a ‘deity’ is felt as a sense of strong presence. The mask above might help engender that presence when used in a particular ritual but any situation can invoke such presence, albeit that depends on the situation and on who is invoking such presence and what sort of cultural context this occurs in.
When I was about two years old, I remember my parents performing in a two-person vignette on the stage of Williams College theatre where my stepfather was the Director of the program, I believe. I recall – very vaguely of course – a short piece, perhaps only a couple of minutes long. The man and the woman wore old-fashioned costumes and I think they were bowing down to an obelisk or some such and intoning prayers in a foreign language. That’s it. Even though only two years old I knew what they were doing which was some sort of sacred ritual. Such things have a sense of stopping time, of spaciousness which becomes vibrant with presence suspended in the vivid, invisible embrace of an eternal now. I don’t know if my parents did a good job of it because of course as a two-year old I was in a state of pure and sacred presence pretty much all of the time, albeit presence mixed with almost total lack of self awareness, a sort of luminous fog of ignorance as the person inside was still learning how to manage being in a body and making sense of the various physical and psychological paraphernalia we all learn to swim through in life. But the symbology of my parents’ performance was instantly recognizable. I did not miss not being able to understand their words for such presence needs no abstract concept to explain; perhaps that is why the Roman Catholic Mass used to be performed in Latin, which nobody in the congregation even back then understood or spoke.
In any case, when you have a strong sense of presence, you have strong awareness, and with strong awareness comes connection with heart, and with connection with heart comes the experience of sacredness.
This presence is the nature of the gods, the deities. They exist in a realm of feeling which is an invisible, formless realm. But even though they cannot be seen, they can be felt, deeply.
This relates back to the notion of mandala because each mandala has at its core some sort of deity principle, an essence, a heart. In arcane tantric terms this is known as a ‘seed syllable.’ Some people say every creature, including plants and perhaps also mountains and rocks have a core spirit. In more mundane terms, each room in a house has a different type of presence. The kitchen is different from the bedroom is different from the hallway or the bathroom or the back yard. Each one can be set up to help engender and also be boosted, as it were, with a strong, deep awareness that marries heart with presence, or sacredness. So even though all experiences and moments can end up bathed in the glow of sacred perception, yet each situation is unique, particular. The sacred kitchen mandala feels different than the sacred bedroom just as the sacred naked female is different from the sacred naked male just as the sacred King is different from the sacred Servant.
Such formless presence has a strong impact, indeed often far more impact than physical forms and their seemingly indomitable solidity. Such formless presences which come along with various tones of feeling, including emotional flourishes like courage, anger, grief, love, humour, devotion, loyalty, passion and so forth, are what makes our human world go around, both individually and collectively.
Such strong yet invisible formless powers in our experienced lives are what some call ‘gods.’ And whether or not we are aware of them, in other words sacred presence, it is behind all and everything all of the time. Indeed, the particular presences, or mandalas, we continuously navigate through, all of which have a decidedly subjective quotient, comprise what we call ‘reality’ so in this sense the gods are creating reality moment by moment as we create them in turn. Perhaps this mutual codependency created our way of reproducing: two types of the same being seemingly separate coming together in order to create new life.
And as we all know, all life, including especially new life, is sacred and therefore is of the gods into whose worlds we their creations are born, live and finally die.